Dorset children get active in national competition

SCHOOL children in Dorset made an incredible 18,268 journeys to school by foot, scooter, bicycle or wheelchair in this year’s Big Walk and Wheel challenge.

The Big Walk and Wheel is the UK’s largest walking, wheeling, scooting and cycling to school challenge.

It inspires pupils to make active journeys to school, improve air quality in their neighbourhood, and better understand the positive impact these changes can have on their environment.

Delivered by the active travel charity Sustrans, the challenge is open to all primary and secondary schools.  And over a fortnight, participating schools compete to see which can achieve the highest number of pupils walking, using a wheelchair, scooting or cycling to school.

This year it took place between March 11-22, and across Dorset school children rose to the challenge to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution during the school run.

Twenty schools in the region took part, and together they saved the equivalent of 15,648kg of CO2 and 23kg of NOx of car emissions from entering the atmosphere.

The Big Walk and Wheel is the UK’s largest walking, wheeling, scooting and cycling to school challenge Picture: Simon Murray

The Big Walk and Wheel is the UK’s largest walking, wheeling, scooting and cycling to school challenge Picture: Simon Murray

The top participating primary schools in Dorset were Lockyer’s Middle School in Corfe Mullen (large primary school category) and Southill Primary in Weymouth (small primary school category).

During the 11-day challenge, an impressive 59% of students at Lockyer’s Middle School left the car behind and travelled to school by foot, scooter, bicycle or wheelchair instead.

In the small primary school category, Southill Primary School led the way with 58% of pupils travelling by active means, followed closely by Wool C of E school at 56% and the Prince of Wales School at 55%.

Mr Gary Spracklen, headteacher of the Prince of Wales school in Dorchester, said: “We are delighted to support the Big Walk and Wheel 2024 at The Prince of Wales School.

“Our participation not only fosters a love for cycling and walking among our pupils but also promotes a healthy, active lifestyle and a greater sense of environmental responsibility.

“Events like Bike it Breakfast and Learn to Ride have been incredibly beneficial in building our pupils’ confidence and enthusiasm for active travel.

Picture: Simon Murray

Picture: Simon Murray

“Sustrans’ initiatives are vital in creating sustainable, healthier communities, and we are proud to be a part of this positive movement.”

The Big Walk and Wheel is run every year by Sustrans, the charity that aims to make walking, wheeling and cycling easier, in partnership with headline sponsors Schwalbe Tyres UK and Dorset Council.

Charlotte Sullivan, Dorset Council’s Active Travel Officer, said: “It was great to see so many Dorset schools participating in the Big Walk and Wheel Challenge this year.  Pupils should be really proud of the impressive number of active travel journeys they managed to log.

“Replacing short journeys in the car with more active travel like walking, cycling and wheeling offers so many benefits for our health, finances and environment.  It can also help reduce traffic, particularly at school pick-up and drop off.  Helping make quieter, safer streets.”

To support the challenge, the council’s Bike It Plus project held events at schools in the county to encourage families to ditch the car and try ‘active travel’ for the daily school run.

Families were invited to attend learn to ride sessions, bike maintenance workshops, puncture repair sessions, Dr Bike and smoothie bike sessions. And, as a reward for travelling in by foot, scooter, bicycle or wheelchair, pupils and their families were treated to a special breakfast.

Anna Philps, Sustrans Bike It Officer for Dorset Council, said: “Thanks to all the schools and local families across Dorset who took part in the Big Walk and Wheel. This is a fantastic result for the region, and really demonstrates how a small change in the way we travel can have a big impact on our local environment.

“We know from our work with schools that children really love getting active on the school run. Parents save money by reducing fuel costs, it’s a great way for children to explore and gives them healthy habits to take into adulthood.”

Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel is an annual event which is open to all primary and secondary schools in the UK.

Free resources are available on the Sustrans website to encourage pupils to help reduce air pollution and learn about the benefits of active travel for themselves, their schools, their neighbourhoods, and the planet.

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